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Media Release
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Dr David Kemp

13 October 2002

Kemp Announces Important World Heritage First: The Melbourne Exhibition Building


Melbourne's Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens may become the first building in Australia to be listed for its World Heritage value and Victoria's first World Heritage Place, Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp announced today.

"Australia is world renowned for its natural world heritage sites. I hope that the Royal Exhibition Building will be the first in a series of significant Australian buildings to be recognised by the world for their built heritage value," Dr Kemp said.

"To be nominated for World Heritage Listing, a site must be of international significance and important to people everywhere. The Royal Exhibition Building is ideal as it represents the international exhibition movement of the 19th century, which symbolised the confidence and achievements of the industrial age.

"The Melbourne Exhibition Building is one of the last remaining world fair buildings which is still used for exhibitions today."

The Building hosted two major international exhibitions in its day, the Melbourne International Exhibition in 1880 and the 1888 Centennial International Exhibition. The exhibitions were immensely popular, the first attracting more than 1.3 million visitors, nearly 60 percent of the Australian population at the time, and increasing to almost 70 percent of the population for the 1888 Centennial Exhibition.

World fair buildings were popular and elaborate promotions of nationhood, industrial technology, cultural identity and trade.

"By bringing people and ideas together on such a grand scale, the movement supported the development of the global economy and enterprise culture that underpins modern democratic society today," Dr Kemp added.

"The values of global openness, peace, prosperity and of the struggle to make our country a better place for our children that were expressed when this building was first opened in 1880 are still an important part of our modern day Australian society."

The building was constructed in 1879 and 1888 by David Mitchell, father of Dame Nellie Melba. It featured a mixture of styles including the renaissance and lombardic styles. The main features are the central dome which was based on Brunelleschi's Duomo in Florence and the stunning fan light windows which were inspired by Joseph Paxton's Crystal Palace of 1851.

Dr David Kemp said that the Federal Government, in full cooperation with the Victorian Government, is preparing a case for nominating the Building and Carlton Gardens, for inscription on the World Heritage List.

The building and gardens remain largely intact and have hosted many significant events involving entertainment, trade and the community including the opening of the First Australian Parliament in 1901, being used as a hospital, and housing the first Australian War Memorial.

Dr Kemp said the Commonwealth would work closely with Heritage Victoria, the Melbourne City Council, the National Trust, the Australian Chapter of the International Council on Monuments and Sites and other important stakeholders, in preparing the case for nomination.

Under the World Heritage Convention, member countries are only permitted to make one nomination per year. Australia's next opportunity for a nomination to be submitted to the World Heritage Centre is in Paris in February 2003. After submission, nominations are subjected to a rigorous process of international assessment before being considered at a World Heritage Committee meeting around mid 2004.

High-resolution photographs and further information about the Royal Exhibition Building are available at: www.ea.gov.au/heritage/whatsnew

Media contact:
Catherine Job (02) 6277 7640 or 0408 648 400

Commonwealth of Australia